Tall imposing mountains, picturesque hills and fertile plains sewn together in a sort of natural tapestry that displays the excellence of the craftsmanship of nature is Nepal. But is that all our country is? With a history stretching back to a time somewhere around two-and-a-half centuries, the longest in South Asia, the country of Nepal has seen much more than one might expect, and has the potential to be much more than a natural marvel. The country of Nepal is best known for having the tallest mountains, the most scenic valleys and the most exotic flora and fauna that prosper among the harmonious relationship of cultures, traditions and regions. But, there was once a time when Nepal was best known for its military prowess and political influence. While the feudal kingdoms and empires of India were still at war and the British “East India Company” among other European nations were trying to set their foothold in Asia, the king of Gorkha sought to unite these tiny states into one power that could withstand any and all threats.
Nepal’s history was also changed by the Ranas, an autocratic-familial regime that reshaped the nation for better or for worse. Industries were opened, roads were built and international relations prospered. While the nation saw more exports than imports, and glory in the battlefields of WWI and WWII, the people were not so fortunate. Widespread oppression of ideas and knowledge was a benchmark of the era as the moon emblem of the Ranas eclipsed the Sun-emblem Shahs of Nepal. Then came the fight for democracy that ended in the end of the Rana regime, the formation and dissolution of the Panchayat system and the ultimate termination of the monarchy itself. Back then, the country had a GDP per capita of just 404$, and the inflation was at a mighty 9.8 percent. The time duration from 1980 onwards is marked by an ever changing economy that has gradually but surely, weakened. Now the GDP per capita is a mere 1337$ per capita, barely ranking us in the list of the top 100 economies. Nepal’s export is limited, but our demands are increasing evermore, resulting in an alarming rise in import rates. While the country exports herbs, handicrafts, spices and garments that account for 5.12 percent of the GDP, we also import oil, gold, iron and steel, clothes, pharmaceutical products, cement, electronic appliances, food and vehicles that amounts to 37.93 percent of our GDP. In addition, each person of Nepal has a public debt burden of NPR 68,755. This and other factors like slow and unsatisfactory development results and the lack of overall facilities has led to an alarmingly high amount of capable manpower leaving the country for good.
This has a devastating impact on the economy and the future. All of this has forced us to be dissatisfied with a nation that bears such a glorious past. In academics, the country boasts people who are capable of exceeding standards set by society. Yet, due to the depreciating condition of Nepali educational institutions, they are forced to seek knowledge abroad. According to a study by the International Organization for Migration, approximately 36 percent of Nepali youth aspire to leave the nation for prospects of education and employment and plan to settle abroad. In an era of endless developments in the fields of medicine, computing and even exploration, we are forced to watch as the world moves on forward. This is not because we lack the skilled manpower to accomplish such tasks, but because our country isn’t stable enough to support or sponsor such endeavors. Our motherland is forced to nurture and cultivate such prodigies and watch as they are forced to go to foreign lands so that they may use their skills and earn a livelihood.
This in no way means that we are not trying. The government has tried to create new sources of income at every turn. Establishment of industries and businesses are a dire need of the country’s current economy, hence the government looks towards them favorably. Hydropower, industrial manufacturing, infrastructure development, tourism, agriculture, minerals, and mining are some areas where investments are projected to give large profits. If we are able to identify the market’s demands, and somehow prevent our skilled manpower from leaving, there is a chance our economy could recover.
We have faced countless obstacles and set-backs that have troubled us and the country alike. But, the nation and its people are known to display extraordinary resilience in times of distress. It is a certainty that we will change, and shape our future for the better, regardless of the hurdles we face along the way or the challenges that we have to overcome. For the betterment of our children and theirs too, Nepal has to change. For whatever we may lose, we will never let go of our ambitions of preserving the past, efforts of improving the present and our yearning for a better future.
Sergio Shumsher JB Rana is an A Levels student at Trinity International College.